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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 70 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: What do YOU buy? Why?  (Read 2586 times)
ace pilot
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Posts: 20


« on: January 16, 2003, 04:35:26 PM »

While the people who visit this site, and who post may not be representative of the greater RPG audience, it might be interested to hear what products people believe in strongly enough to put down their money and why they purchased these products.

Myself, Iím a marketerís nightmare since I really donít buy much in the way of non-essential consumer goods anymore.  Partly, this is because Iím a VERY tough sell and Iím naturally skeptical of salespeople.  Partly, this is because my personal standards have risen so much (Iíve browsed the local Borders Bookstore dozens of times, as well as RPG hobby stories, and decided that Iím much happier going home and writing myself).  Also, I think that most RPGs are highly overpriced.   I remember buying the AD&D Playerís Handbook in 1986 for $15 (which I still feel was a good buy), and I feel that paying more than $30 for a hardcover is ridiculous.  Admittedly, many of todayís hardcovers have a better grade of paper stock, and the flashier illustrations, but I donít give a ratís ass.  I make purchasing decisions mainly on content, rather than packaging.

For example, recently, I flipped through Children of the Sun and was bored to tears.  First of all, do people even care about Diesel Punk?  What the heck is ďDiesel PunkĒ?  It basically sounds like the designers added guns to a traditional fantasy setting, slapped on a faux-cool name, and expected people to think that they were clever.  Moreover, thereís nothing really interesting or unique about either the game world or the game mechanics.  Iíve seen it all before.

I did buy Chaosiumís Call of Cthulhu last year, but thatís mainly because Iím a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan, and the gamebook does a great job of collecting background information and analyzing the Cthulhu mythos. I definitely would NOT have bought the new d20 Call of Cthulhu, which is obviously much more corporate and much less the work of hardcore Lovecraft fans.  Also, by imposing the d20 mechanics, the new game wipes out the few really neat things about the original mechanics and turns the game into a bland, generic horror game set in the world of Lovecraft.

Anyways, Iíd love to hear from other people on this subject.

Cheers.
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2003, 09:26:54 PM »

What do you mean by "what do you buy?" You mean what games have I bought recently and why? Or what kind of things do I look for?

Happy to answer, but I don't want to de-rail your thread.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Alan
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2003, 04:17:24 AM »

HI all,

I'm pretty sure Ace is asking what qualities we look for in an RPG when we make a buy decision.  I too am very conservative with purchases.  

First, what I _don't_ buy:

Glossy color illustrations - unnecessarily cranks up the price.  Makes me wonder if their trying to gloss over second-rate content with marketing.  (Though I make an exception for RPGs based on movies or TV).

Setting-heavy books.  Making the setting is the fun part, why should I let someone else do it?  Again, this approach is often a marketing ploy to cover up an otherwise uninspired game product.

The latest way to be funky, superhuman, and/or dead.  The whole fantasy that alienation gives superhuman powers over the group from which you are alienated leaves me cold.  It's Gen X/Goth-think rehashed.  I'd much rather play characters that participate in a human culture.  
(I played humans in AD&D).

What I do buy:

- Consistent, well-thought out system.  "Elegant" is what I'm looking for - a game that achieves it's goals with as few rules and rule variations as possible.

- Innovative design ideas

- Well organized books, set up for easy reference and use in play.  
(Game system first, in the order it will be used - illos and fiction kept to a minimum.)

- Unadulterated genres (no magic with my SF thank you!)
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
clehrich
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2003, 09:34:13 AM »

Hi,

First of all, I should point out that I rarely buy any RPG products (I borrow them, mostly), so my preferences here ought to be put in that category.

1. I like books with detailed settings.  Half the time I find myself scrapping the mechanics anyway, so what I'm looking for is a sophisticated, well thought-out setting.

2. I sometimes buy books with historical settings, but mostly these days I borrow them.  My main reason is that I always hold out hope that someday I'm going to see an RPG book with phenomenally good historical material.  I've only seen it once --- the AD&D2 Historical Setting book A Mighty Fortress, oddly enough --- but for some reason I keep hoping.  (Note: I probably missed lots of good stuff, in which case, let me know.)

3. I buy basic RPG mechanics books when I'm in a game using them.  This isn't predictable.

4. I buy RPGs for their mechanics if (1) they're cheap, and (2) they're stripped down a lot.  So I'm willing to pay $10 or so to download a game from the Forge Resource Library, if everyone is talking about how brilliant it is, but I'm not willing to shell out $35 for the same material plus a lot of cheez-whiz in a shop.

What I don't buy:

1. Image-heavy books.  The only really well-illustrated RPG book I've ever seen was the afore-mentioned A Mighty Fortress.  If you haven't seen it, take a look.  The art was done buy a bunch of total unknowns, people with silly names like Rembrandt, Durer, and stuff like that.  And for some reason it seems to have been copyright free, what do you know about that?

2. Story-heavy books.  I really hate the RPG book that has 50 pages of a sample story, usually very badly written, occasionally only mediocre.

3. As others have mentioned, there is the "here's a whole new way to be insanely powerful and have a lot of ridiculous pseudo-angst at the same time, because you're dead BUT you're also cyber-dead," or whatever.

4. RPGs with a very obvious political bias, except for the odd satire.  I get very tired of "Here's a neat new idea --- Christianity is bad and out to get you!" and the like.

Is it any wonder I don't buy White Wolf?  :>

I don't know if this helps any, but there you go.
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Chris Lehrich
Jake Norwood
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2003, 10:20:49 AM »

I think that I buy and read games that strike me. Something I've heard about it says "you can do something with this game that you can't do as well (or at all) with another game, and it's something that you want." I generally like some setting in my books, but not a lot, and I strongly resent "metaplot," which means that I usually end up ignoring it. Examples of games that "strike" me:

-L5R got me with it's mechanics and the fact that it was Samurai. I was less impressed with the setting once I picked it up, because I just wanted Akira Kurosawa.
-Sorcerer got me because it's the "rules light game that isn't," and it's approach to many problems in RPing really made me excited.
-InSpectres got me with the confessionals. That's it, but man did it get me.
-Pendragon got me initially because it was Arthur--not Arthur 2020, but just Arthur. I'll agree with what's said before that I like "purity" in my genres, generally. Later, the year-to-year mechanic in Pendragon, and the mass battles, addicted me.
-Deadlands got me because the componets--dice, cards, pokerchips, etc, was so all-out that if just "felt" neat to me. It's the exception to the genre rule. But then again, the setting is still annoying.
-Warhammer Fantasy...blood, blood, blood and chaos.

I like good art. It doesn't need to be uber-numerous, but I do like it if it helps me get into the mindset of the game. A game book should have ideas rolling through my head about how cool it would be to get my players into this. THat's why setting-heavy books (whether it's Nobilis or Unknown Armies) are hard for me. I like reading them, but I doubt I'll ever play them because my players would have to read large quantites of stuff, too, and that just doesn't happen. The game should be approachable, innovative *or* thematically striking.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2003, 10:23:08 AM »

I buy quite a bit of books.  I consider the price reasonable.  In theory, I should get quite a few hours of entertainment out of it (especially when divided into hours of entertainment per person in the group); more than a video game, which costs more and I still buy.  Besides, the industry needs my money.

My main draws are quality of the book (art, color, layout, etc) and system.  I'm buying an item, a product, and I want it to look good and feel like there was some effort put into it (and making it pleasant to read never hurts).  I always look carefully at the character sheet before making a purchase.  The character sheet tells you a lot about the system - it normally tells you more about the intended feel and flow of the system than the text ever does.

An interesting setting is nice to read, but I really don't care because I'll probably never use it anyway.  I like reading lists of spells; I don't know why, I'm just sick in the head.

What keeps me away from a book is a cheap feel, a bland system, and a character sheet that might as well be a piece of lined paper.

I don't care much for short stories in a book.  I loathe some sort of moral message or impossed newagey world view - it just gets under my skin, in an irrational hatred sort of way (The WW games Mage and Werewolf are perfect examples of this); but, by the time I figure this out I've already bought the book.

I rarely buy anything but core books (that's where the system is).  I doubt I'll every buy a source adventure.
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- Cruciel
ace pilot
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2003, 01:56:41 PM »

Quote from: Jake Norwood
What do you mean by "what do you buy?" You mean what games have I bought recently and why? Or what kind of things do I look for?

Happy to answer, but I don't want to de-rail your thread.

Jake


As Alan points out, I'm interested in finding out recent purchases and why and qualities that people look for.  I think that such information is invaluable for indie game designers, especially in terms of how to market a product.  

Marketing is an area that I think is very much overlooked by many game designers.  Myself, I'm going the grassroots, word-of-mouth route for now to conserve limited resources.  This is also a good way to get quick feedback, and decide how much energy to put into a project.
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clehrich
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2003, 02:05:55 PM »

As you noted at the outset, the Forge may not be the most accurate survey of RPG gamers.  Looking at what people have said here, as well as on the Actual Play: Pre-Packs thread, it looks like Forge people don't buy a good deal of what's actually on the market, and in fact are unimpressed by a lot of what seems to sell well (White Wolf products leap to mind, for example).  Just something to bear in mind.
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Chris Lehrich
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2003, 02:57:50 PM »

Hello,

Here's my customer profile.

1) I buy any creator-owned role-playing game. No limits. At a con, say, if they want to give it to me free, I try to discourage them and pay for it instead, not always successfully.

2) I buy games which appear to have a strong Narrativist slant.

3) I buy any out-of-print core book, although not at the drop of a hat; it's a slow process.

4) I buy any supplement that looks to have immediately-useful stuff in it, usually images and maps, or rarely a neat premise.

5) With the exception of #4 above, I don't buy any White Wolf, AEG, or TSR/Hasbro products except at second-hand or mark-down.

6) With the exception of #1 above, I don't buy games with hard covers and/or which cost over $20 or $25.

7) I don't buy new editions of games I have unless they represent serious system-level re-design.

If #2 and #6 conflict, I go into a typical guy "um, um" dither.

Final point: I strongly urge caution in identifying particular games or lines as "selling well." Some of the most omnipresent products on the shelves are terrible sellers. Do remember that TSR went bankrupt or almost-bankrupt multiple times ...

Best,
Ron
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2003, 05:39:21 PM »

Some things that'll make me more likely to buy a game:

Interesting design.  I don't have a collection of White Wolf games or a stack of fantasy heartbreakers in my bookcase.

Striking thematic elements.  A game to me is very much like an idea for a story, and if it throws ideas at me the second I pick it up, that's cool.  At this level, I like setting-light but not setting-free; a game that says "This is set in a fairy-tale Japan; here are some things you could find in it..." will hold my attention longer than one that has pages of floorplans of the Chrysanthemum Palace in Edokku.

Diction.  Friendly, engaging diction.  I don't like games that read like encycclopedias.  If the game can convey the feel it wants to evoke through the way it's written, without becoming illegible in the process, that's attractive.  It speaks to me about the quality of the writers.

Good art.  Sparse art, ideally, separated carefully from the actual game text, nicely executed and presented, distinctively identifiable as associated with the game.  I'm a very visual person; I like my games to have a visual style.

Organization.  If a book has color and rules text, they should be clearly segregated, and the rules should be organized so I can find what I want, instantly.

Recognition.  If I own something a particular person wrote, and enjoy it, I'm much more likely to buy something else by the same author.


Some things that turn me off:

Sincerely bad art or typesetting.  Looking at my books shouldn't make me sad; reading them shouldn't hurt my eyes.

Metaplots.  Ongoing conflicts that run a scale longer than any concievable series of games don't bother me; they're just states of affairs.  But it annoys me when game settings have timelines finer-grained than hundreds of years.

"Generic" games.  A game that doesn't know what it's going to be used for can't be prepared for its subject matter.  Under this banner also fall games that take a single rules system and proliferate it to a number of settings or character roles - WW and D&D come to mind.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2003, 05:50:48 PM »

I, like Ron, buy any creator-owned game I see in the store. I'll admit I'm a little less inclined to by any creator-owned game that's electronic. I'd guess I hit about 75% of those.

Outside of that, I buy:
1) Games which take a new approach to a mechanic, whether or not I like that mechanic. To find this out, I read the back and introduction to any new game I see, then turn to the character sheet. If the sheet looks like they fulfill their promise, I'm in.

2) Any game I'm currently playing in.

3) Adventures, even for games I don't own. I don't buy as many of these lately, but I find them a mine for neat scenes I can throw into my own adventures.

Things I generally avoid, unless completely grabbed by an idea:

1) Rules supplements, even for games I like. The current exceptions are Hero Wars, Unknown Armies, and - if they ever come out with their supplements - The Riddle of Steel. I find the Hero Wars stuff is just plain needed - and usually cool; Unknown Armies' supplements are universally well written and interesting bathroom reading, at a minimum; and The Riddle of Steel is my own personal crack cocaine.

2) White Wolf games. I own one, Adventure! It's great. Outside of that, I don't get it anymore. (This is funny, because I used to have the world's largest White Wolf collection in about 1996.)

3) d20 games. I like d20 - really. Most of the supplements I see are just plain shoddily written, though. I stick with some of the Mongoose and Green Ronin stuff.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2003, 08:28:33 PM »

I tend to only buy something if it strikes a point of interest. What these points of interest are varies from week to week and as I try to grow as a person. Until recently a major point of interest would be for research into what an RPG can do. Lately, this has gone by the wayside and now I only buy stuff I intend to use. Unfortunately, I haven't purchased anything since I had decided to do this so my mind is slipping back into the old habbit of research, which was never very helpful. I keep looking for something I am just not finding. I guess I should write my own game?
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Clay
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« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2003, 10:06:09 AM »

I tend to make my buying decisions based on the publisher's track record.  For instance, I'll buy anything from Chaosium (or its spinoffs such as Issaries and Green Knight).  I've loved everything for Call of Cthulhu that I've purchased, which led directly to my purchase of Stormbringer (even though I'm not particularly fond of the Elric novels) and supplements for Pendragon which have been useful in all manner of games.

For the same reason I avoid White Wolf. I was sucked in by their design, put off by their mechanics, and profoundly, "I need a quart of whiskey just to get through" depressed after reading through their books (Vampire and Changeling). I can take the cool concepts from either and implement them in a more satisfactory way with Sorcerer.

Home ownership and marriage have put a serious dent in my game purchases. I bought freely when I was single and lived in an apartment. Now all my money goes to the hardware and grocery stores.
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Michael Hopcroft
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« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2003, 10:16:49 AM »

I buy whatever I think will help me with my own designs and whatever meets my own interest. I have a particular fondness for generic systems and am a sucker for a good GURPS or HERO book. I also love Guardians of Order (strange as they're my biggest competitor, but I've talked with Mark and have remained friendly about it) and have been buying their stuff since the very first book they released for Big Eyes, Small Mouth. My copy of Silver Age Sentinels is autographed.

I recently picked up D20 Modern as research for HeartQuest D20. the rules are nice, but the book seems to encourage really violent campaigns.

My religious views don;t usually influence my game purchases, which when you come to think of it is really weird. I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints abouta year and a half ago (please don't hold it against me) and the church has strong opinions on things like excessive violence in entertainment. I avoid White Wolf's line because of the excessive violence, and am rather disturbed by the direction D&D is taking at the moment with products like The Book of Vile Darkness. But I don;t campaign against books I don;t like -- I just don't buy them.

I like genres that encourage character interaction, non-fatal combat and solving problems without neccesarily resorting to violence. And I also believe that everything you do as a character in an RPG should have conequences in the game world, which is one reason HeartQuest turned out the way it did. I have serious problems with killing an Orc just because he's an Orc. One of my themes in the upcoming Fuzz: the Furry Police RPG is that the many different furson species, carnivorous and herbivorous alike, have to get along for society to thrive.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2003, 02:24:19 PM »

I find myself buying games that are beautiful.

Now, defining just what that means is problematic, but I've been obsessed with "beautiful game design" lately, so I'll give it a shot.  My view of what makes a game "beautiful" covers a variety of perspectives:

1. Elegant game mechanics.  Surprise me.  Make me look at the world in a different way.  Game mechanics are a reflection of the cosmology of your world.  They're the internal physics of setting and character.  Our God may use a base-ten counting system and like round numbers, but that doesn't mean your God does.  Make the mechanics do what you need them to & only that, without any waste or excess.

2. Evocative concepts.  Make me think.  Make me dream.  I want to read your game and not stop thinking about it for a week.  "How cool would that be?  No, wait.  This would be even cooler!"  Don't go for simple answers.  Don't open all the doors or detail every dark corner.  Leave room for exploration, but give me a sketchy map and a compass so I don't get lost.  Point the way, but don't walk it for me.  Give me the wanderlust to go on your journey.

3. Execution.  You've got the concepts and the mechanics but you have to communicate them.  Blow me away.  Write like you spent time choosing every word.  Organize your information so I can understand it.  Arrange things on the page to reflect what you're trying to accomplish.  Waste no space with art that does not do what you want.  You know what you're trying to do, so DO IT.  Don't mess around and don't settle for second best.

All in all, I want the authors/creators to prove to me that they CARE about what they've created and that THEY think it's beautiful.  Not beautiful like a hot chick, beautiful like your grandmother's smile.  Beauty that's worth writing home about, not just some initial attraction.

Games that IMO fulfill all three: Nobilis, Toon, Torchbearer, Continuum, Fudge, Baron Munchausen.

Games that IMO almost fulfill all three: Universalis, Call of Cthulhu, In Nomine, Exalted, Unknown Armies, Kult.

I've found that a good many European games aim for beauty more than US games do, as my current wishlist (Agone, Engel, Mechanical Dream) reflects.
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